05 May 2009

The Foghorn: A year in review

It's a Monday night. Well technically it's more like Tuesday morning, but let's leave my crazy insomniac lifestyle out of this. Most Monday nights are spent entirely in the Foghorn office. The Foghorn is the University of San Francisco's student newspaper. Our small staff spends Monday nights laying out the weekly paper, usually staying up til 2, 3, or 4 in the morning. It is a labor of love. We usually crawl off to our respective apartments (or just crash on the couch in the office) late and wake up the next morning, slightly refreshed, only to return back to the office to catch the mistakes made by our tired selves the night before. Classes, homework, projects, all seem to take a backseat to this.

But tonight that is not the case. The school year is quickly wrapping up, and the paper has gone to bed for the semester, leaving me and my colleagues to run around like chickens with our heads cut off with no paper to attend to until next fall. What do normal people do Monday nights?

This time has given me a chance to reflect on the crazy, crazy year the Foghorn has had. It really was groundbreaking, and not to sound self-important, but it was perhaps one of the most significant in the paper's 106 years.

I say this almost primarily because of the new website. After several years of an unimpressive online site, the Foghorn now has a dynamic, interactive, multimedia supporting and, most importantly, fun to utilize web PRESENCE. Yes the word presence is important. Presence implies that people know we are present, which they do. By the time content is uploaded to the site, often before the PAPER paper has been distributed around campus, page views are already soaring, and comment discussions beginning to heat up. There is an online presence.

Eternal thanks go out to Michael Villasenor for this, a USF senior and web guru, who envisioned and created the site. His creative vision and technical expertise made the site all that it is today: user friendly, engaging and community oriented with minimal technical difficulty.

Having the Foghorn Online become so important has helped the Foghorn in paper as well. I know I personally have stepped up the quality of stories I am working on and am taking extra care to cover things fairly. Heaven forbid, I think, if I covered an important story unfairly, I would be attacked by the online commenters. If the press is supposed to check big business and government, then finally readers have the opportunity to check the press, beyond a letter to the editor. There is now instant feedback, completely public for the world to see. Let's just say I'm being more careful than ever. I'm also choosing to cover more stories that are of significance to the community because, from an egotistical standpoint, I want to see people reading and discussing my articles. I expect other writers feel this way as well. This concern for what the readers want is obviously what we should have always been doing, but now it is just more clear to see what readers enjoy.

This has also been a year filled with some significant news in the University community. An alleged rape case made headlines around the Bay Area when a senior in the ROTC program was accused of rape by four unique female students, and I covered this for the Foghorn. It was one of the most interesting experiences I ever had as a student journalist: real news, right on my campus. The full news story can be read here. I also covered much of the aftermath: student reactions and anti-rape events. The whole issue also sparked a series of very thoughtful opinion columns by community members; such a great dialog I will never forget.

It was also the year that the 44th US President Barack Obama was elected and inaugurated into office, which I covered for the Foghorn as well. The night he was elected, sharing that moment with my campus community, and then heading into the newsroom to type up a story in time for print -- definitely something to tell the grandkids about.

I have also covered controversies involving USF faculty: a popular professor Andrej Grubacic not being rehired and faculty union negotiations (which I did a rather shoddy job at, but read anyway if you must).

After this monumental year, the Foghorn staff was surprised to have our stipends cut by the student government. Rather than sit idly by, we wrote an impassioned staff editorial. This article, within hours of being posted, received more comments than any other article ever posted to our site. Though I did not write this piece, it inspires me to see how powerful the Foghorn Online can become. The readers, the USF community, can have an extremely powerful voice. After this was printed (and we filled out a formal appeal), our stipends were almost completely reinstated. Perhaps because the student body at large was so widely in support of us. That felt good.

This year I went from co-news editor to managing editor of the Foghorn. Next year I will take over for the infamous Hunter Patterson as editor in chief. Hunter leaves large shoes to fill, not to mention he's pretty much the only EIC I've ever known here at the Foghorn. I am excited for another tumultuous year with the newspaper, hopefully with more drama and breaking news than ever.

Thanks for reading.


Michael Villasenor said...

What a great post! Yes, the Foghorn definitely experienced some of it's greatest moments this past year. I look forward to everything you do next year! Take care Laura!

Anonymous said...

I've been around USF for a while (undergrad, staff, grad student + staff) and agree 100% - it has been an amazing year for the Foghorn. Your assessment of the year and your own reporting was refreshing. I look forward to seeing how you and the Foghorn capture whats important USF going forward. -shawn